© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega speaks after voting within the municipal elections at a polling station in Managua, Nicaragua November 5, 2017. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas
By Diego Oré and Daina Beth Solomon
(Reuters) -Nicaraguans went to the polls on Sunday in a presidential election marked by longtime President Daniel Ortega’s ruthless marketing campaign to increase his tight grip on energy by jailing opponents in a contest the US and different critics dismiss as a sham.
Small traces of voters shaped within the capital Managua simply after polls opened at 7:00 a.m. native time (1300 GMT), with a number of proudly displaying off their ink-stained thumbs after casting their ballots. Voting ends at 6:00 p.m.
Ortega, a onetime guerrilla who helped depose a right-wing household dictatorship in 1979, is nearly sure to get a fourth straight time period to extend his standing because the Americas’ longest-serving chief, alongside his spouse, Vice President Rosario Murillo.
In neighboring Costa Rica, the place hundreds of Nicaraguan exiles have fled in recent times, round 2,000 anti-Ortega protesters marched alongside a most important downtown San Jose thoroughfare, snaking down eight blocks.
Chants of “lengthy reside a free Nicaragua” rang out as festive marimba music blared from audio system.
Ortega first turned president within the Eighties earlier than shedding in a 1990 upset, and he returned to the highest job once more in 2007.
Since Might, Ortega’s police have imprisoned almost 40 main opposition figures, together with seven presidential candidates, in addition to outstanding enterprise leaders, journalists and even a few of his former insurgent allies.
Ortega’s solely opposition on the poll comes from 5 less-known candidates of small allied events. Abstention was anticipated to be excessive, with about 4.5 million Nicaraguans eligible to vote.
Ortega can, nonetheless, nonetheless rely on hard-core supporters.
“We have to stand by the Sandinista entrance’s anti-poverty agenda in order that our folks can proceed being victorious,” stated Laura Valdez, a member of Ortega’s Sandinista Nationwide Liberation Entrance (FSLN).
In the meantime, posts on social media early Sunday from one of many two most important opposition coalitions, the Blue and White Nationwide Union social gathering, included footage of empty streets.
“We keep at house at present,” the social gathering proclaimed on Twitter (NYSE:).
Additionally up for grabs are 92 seats within the unicameral Congress, additionally firmly managed by Ortega’s allies.
Jason Marczak, a researcher on the Washington-based Atlantic Council who focuses on Central American politics, dismissed Sunday’s vote as “extensively discredited,” including that Ortega’s unpopularity may solely be overcome with brute power.
“His victory will solely have been potential by locking up would-be opponents,” he stated.
Ortega’s present time period took an particularly repressive flip in 2018, when he quashed largely peaceable protests by these initially upset over spending cuts, killing greater than 300 folks and wounding hundreds extra.
Final 12 months, the ruling social gathering introduced in a brand new legislation criminalizing dissent, and in latest months overseas journalists have been barred from getting into.
One Reuters reporter was turned again by border brokers final Friday, whereas one other, a Nicaraguan citizen, was turned away in September.
Worldwide observers have been allowed into the nation solely from allies together with from Russia and a few Latin American leftist actions, not critics just like the European Union or the Group of American States (OAS).
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken final month deplored the “sham election,” accusing Ortega, 75, and Murillo, 70, of in search of an “authoritarian dynasty.”
Final week, U.S. officers stated new sanctions have been being thought-about in opposition to the facility couple’s authorities, a sentiment echoed by European Union leaders, along with a future overview of Nicaragua’s standing within the CAFTA regional commerce pact.
Ortega, a Chilly Struggle-era U.S. antagonist and Marxist insurgent within the toppling of the Somoza dictatorship in 1979, brushes off worldwide criticism, saying Nicaragua should struggle imperialists and that sanctions is not going to defeat him.
Whereas most analysts agree Ortega is prone to prevail within the close to time period, simply as fellow leftist strongmen in Cuba and Venezuela have performed in recent times, in addition they say extended unrest may drive new waves of fleeing Nicaraguans.
Many have gone both south to Costa Rica, or sought to succeed in the U.S. border, pushed by an financial stoop previous to the coronavirus pandemic.
Gross home product shrank almost 9% from 2018 to 2020, in comparison with sturdy common development of virtually 4% since 2000.
Analysts such because the Atlantic Council’s Marczak are already trying previous Sunday’s vote.
“The query just isn’t what occurs on November 7,” he stated, “however how strongly the U.S. and different democracies reply on November 8.”